BDIN


















Angela Rodel: translator
Vasil Slavov: editor of the English translation 


Bdin*

Dear mother,
I died
but I didn't go to heaven,
instead I arrived in Bdin. 
The postman
frequently passes by
on his rusty "Ukraine" bicycle**, 
thus, contrary to all laws,
you will have news
from me.
To tell you the truth,
I haven't gone very far here either,
since I've never been much good with languages.
I have remained a poet.
But being a poet among the mute
is like being a gravedigger 
in the Beyond.
(By the way,
I saw the graves of Levski and Botev***.)
My contemporaries
have long since become classics,
while I'm left munching sunflower seeds 
on the edge of the Canon. 
Otherwise, I tend the Tsar's sheep,
and thus earn my daily bread.
I have met two kinds of people.
Some say -
"We'll divert the river here!"
Others say -
"We'll divert the river there!"
My mind was torn,
I sat in the middle.
The water poured
over me.
As before,
I have no companions. 

I walk alone on the banks of the river.
I look upstream,
waiting for it to bring 
either some chest of drawers,
or some votive candle,
or a nest to build a home in,
or to meet the woman  
I love.


____________________________________________________________
*The medieval name of the town Vidin
**A brand of Russian bicycles
***Vasil Levski, the leader of the national liberation movement in the 
19th century, was betrayed and hanged; the location of his grave is unknown. 
Hristo Botev, a poet and revolutionary, was killed in battle during 
the national liberation uprising in 1876; the location of his grave is unknown, 
as well.


Bdin I  

As I was walking
along the river,
I suddenly saw
a stone in the grass.
Taking off my rounded glasses,
I bent over to read:

"Here in this place a poet rests                      
with talent enough for five more yet.
By the name of Hristov he was called,
and was fairly loved by one and all.
He shuffles the eras and the epochs
as if slicing time on chopping blocks.
The verbal Balkans' steep inclines
he masters in his lyrical lines.

Though muses swarm around him,
very little poetry they beget.
And any sharp looks that you give him,
you'll almost certainly regret.
You, O critic so noble and so gallant
look upon this innate talent,
which in its spirit and its style
is like nothing before seen
But alas and alack!
He has departed for Bdin."


Bdin II

Continue dreaming,
my love…
Continue dreaming…
With my palms I will protect
			your eyelids
			from the harsh rays
Continue dreaming,
my love…
Continue dreaming…
See, the river
	and the city
	how they smile
Continue dreaming,
my love…
Continue dreaming…
Only in dreams are we pure
			and good
			and real
Continue dreaming,
Continue dreaming…
my love…
Only in your dreams
			for a little while
			will I come alive


Bdin III

Dear father,
I believe that 
you are in heaven
and thus when
you look down
on me from above
I beg you
light
a candle for me
in the heavenly church
because here where we are
down below
some have torn down
the churches,
while 
others have murdered
the souls


Bdin IV

The river.
		She runs and 
		sweeps away
		our walls,
				dikes,
				bridges,
				and dams.
				The river.
		       She demolishes
		and desecrates
		our buildings,
shrines,
statues,
and pedestals.
The river.
			She drags away
			and effaces
			our family 
				portraits,
				family trees,
				domestic relics.
					The river.
			She opens up
			and resurrects
pantheons,
museums,
mausoleums,
and graves
				and our 
				living bodies
				she locks
				in stifling
				berths.
				And our ships
				sink,
				and we scream
				but our throats
				fill with water	
				and in the depths
				our Voice
				dies away…

				O, the river!
				She is so
				inconstant, 
				light and ethereal,
				yet how badly it hurts
				when she kills.
				And we don't have
				          a chance,
				since she is everything
					 to us,
				         our Death,
				and our happiness,
				         our Eternity 


Bdin V
		
                   for Vesi
		
                   
We must
think
of good things 
of good             
and beautiful things.
Sometimes   
I get ahead 
of time.
Sometimes
I hear a Voice:
"Wait,
don't rush,
Ivan,
when the speed
of time passing 
exceeds
human dimensions,
it is equal
to zero."
Most likely
those who have experienced stress
are inclined to
bad thoughts.
I don't know
how the historians
measure
time,
but I do know 
how one can age
twenty years
in a single second.
"Wait,
don't rush,
Ivan…"
We must 
think
of good things
and know
that they will
happen.


Bdin - The Dump 1

The dump in Bdin
has a peculiar characteristic,
namely that it never ends.
How long have I been walking and walking and walking…
It is the beginning and the end,
the endless horizon of waiting.
Here you can find anything:
from scraps of plastic
to clippings from old newspapers,
unused train tickets,
pictures of unknown girls,
crippled hobbyhorses,
bottles of Coca-cola,
busts of Lenin and Stalin,
used condoms,
swastikas and broken crosses,
books from Mark through Marx to Marques,
from the crescent to the hammer and sickle…
Sometimes I meet
other poets, too,
but they speak foreign languages
and belong to 
foreign literatures,
thus we cannot
establish contact.
Sometimes I lie
inside a cardboard box 
and feel
like a child
in the womb,
I dream that I am flying…
Sometimes the dump
is warm and breathes.
Sometimes I think
that the people here
live like migratory
birds -

from North to South
from warm to cold
and back.
Thus every
forty years.
I smoke a cigarette butt
and have
nowhere to toss it.


Bdin - The Park

I like to stroll
and breathe the fresh air
at dusk, in the park,
among retirees, 
lovers,
and drug addicts
among those who
have no future


Bdin VI

Sometimes
at dusk
I stop
on the bridge
and your
face 
to me looks  
enormous 
enormous
like the river
itself


Bdin - The Dump 2

Sometimes I meet
other poets,
but each lives
in his own time, 
thus we cannot
establish contact.
Once I met a poet
and wanted to tell him
how I would like to live
during the time of the Renaissance…
or at least during the Bulgarian Revival.*
I wanted to tell him
about the similarity between
the female body and
a bottle of Coca-cola,
about how one night
I dreamt that one of
the caryatids on the Acropolis
broke free and started coming towards me.
When I woke up,
I found myself hugging a coke bottle.
But he said
that he lived in the Middle Ages
and that for him
woman was the Devil's spawn
and with that, our conversation
ended


____________________________
*The Bulgarian Revival refers to a period of socio-economic, 
political and cultural development, which began with the first history 
of Bulgaria, written by Pajsij Hilendarski in 1762, and continued for 
more than a century, culminating Bulgaria's independence from the 
Ottoman Empire in 1878.


Bdin - The Balcony

	for Atanas Dalchev

I stood on the balcony,
smoked, and enjoyed
the noise of the streetcars.
I met people
with a smile,
fed the birds
with yesterday's bread.
In flowerpots I tended
beautiful flowers,
nourishing them
with living water.
I warmed the burning stone
in my heart,
but when I turned around,
I was met with
a blank brick wall.


Bdin VII

	for Plamen Tushkov

Under his umbrella 
he does not acknowledge
summer fall winter
he sells books
on his boat 
alone in the middle of the ocean
of people
yet his boat -
his typewriter
of course
is named "Chekhov"
I'm not sure whether he is
an old hippy
or a watchman
of cherry
orchards
But today I saw
Chekhov himself
ask him
with a wink
did he have Tushkov's
book


Bdin - The History of Sound

hroo hroo hroo
hruh hruh hruh
hrah hrah hrah
hray hray hray
hree hree hree
hree hree hree
hray hray hray
hrah hrah hrah
hruh hruh hruh
hroo hroo hroo


Bdin VIII

this holiness
	this holiness
this holiness
	how it spills over
and is so pure and bright
this holiness
	this holiness
this holiness
	how it spills over
and is so translucent-cold
	/like breath on glass/
this holiness
	this holiness
this holiness
	how it kills me
and is so silent and silent
	and silent


Bdin IX

	"It was a dream, the quiet courtyard was just a dream,
	they were just a dream, the white-blossomed cherry trees!"

Do you remember, do you remember…
Writing is a good cure
for loneliness.
You speak in the darkness
as if someone were waiting for you. 
Do you remember…
That night,
it was excruciating…
So much prolonged, mute time 
drips
	drop
		by drop
			into the canal.
It was rain or snow,
			it was breath
					on glass.
Then I
	listened to Albinoni
			for a long time
for an excruciatingly long time,
and since I later realized
that Biology is stronger 
			than meaning, 
I gorged myself on antibiotics.

It seemed to me
that I was already dead,
		yet I woke up…
Going Beyond
is so easy -
a question of the angle of the light
	click and
my mother with split lips -
	my father
click
my father beating my sister
	click
	here comes my turn
	click
my father - the heart attack
Going Beyond
is so easy
Sometimes I wonder - 
what was 
all of that for?
Do you remember?...


Bdin X

	for P.K. Yavorov

The eternal water sleeps, infinite
				Water - bottomless,
Our insomniac eyelashes will turn
to kiss our wordless lips.

The eternal water sleeps, infinite
				Water - bottomless,
Exhausted brows will stroke,
will caress our shivering bodies

The pre-eternal water, all-eternal
				Water - crystalline, 
It melts
the stone,
turning its Angel
into steam


Bdin XI

My love,
I am writing to you
from a city that
I would never wish
for you to visit.
Night here
is carmine black.
If you touch
someone,
in an instant he turns
to dust.
Moreover, 
I don't recall
day ever having dawned.
I wander
often through the muddy
streets,
mute and solitary,
and my heart
screams
in the cold autumn:
Air! More air!
In fact,
this is a city
for exiles.
Otherwise,
constant immutability 
has turned out to be my
constant characteristic.
The doctor said:
"I'm not exactly sure
which is better
for a person:
to drown oneself
in a muddy river
or to hurl oneself
off a balcony."
I am still
incurably ill
and continue to hear voices
in the night.
Today,
while I was
smoking,
I heard the voice
of a refined
poetess
(imagine her as a
classical vase):
"It just doesn't work for me"
"It just doesn't work for me"
But, madam,
would you like
to hear my
music…
"So intimate, 
this Chopin,
that I think 
his soul should
be resurrected
only among friends"
The light 
passes 
through me
as through
a crystal
glass.
I washed the windows,
poured some tea…
I stand here
and wait for you, useless,
filled with silence…
I would like
to resurrect
the soul of Chopin
for you alone…
It just doesn't work for me
It just doesn't work for me


Bdin XII

	for Evgenia Boyadzhieva

Everything
attains
significance   
afterwards
Afterwards 
they attain
significance
words
meetings
faces
But        
when
one
rises
towards the heavens
he sees 
his 
loved ones
and
smiles
and then
everything
attains 
significance
afterwards
everything 
attains
significance


Bdin - Folk Song I

1

See 
	how the branch
		weighted down	
				with blossoming flowers 
		bends to drink from the river.
It is so quiet now,
	yes, it is so quiet now,
	but you are not here,
	no, Ivan,
	you are not here…

See
	how the field,
		long since thirsty
				with a blistered body
			spreads itself open to drink from the sky. 
It is so quiet now,
	yes, it is so quiet now,
	but you are not here,
	no, Ivan,
	you are not here…

See
	how the grape
			bitter,
				black in color
		breaks off and falls softly to the ground. 
It is so quiet now,
	yes, it is so quiet now,
	but you are not here,
	no, Ivan,
	you are not here…

See
	how the crimson snow
			gently kisses
				and embraces
			the river like a warm cloak. 
It is so quiet now,
	yes, it is so quiet now,
	but you are not here,
	no, Ivan,
	you are not here…


2

I have fallen, mother,
I am dead,
but I remember the days
when you fed me with
milk
and cherry blossoms
and cherry blossoms.
Now I am dead, mother,
I have fallen,
yet I would still scratch
with my nails across the wall:
"Overacheivers suck!!!" 
I have fallen, mother,
I am dead,
my father,
at night
used to climb the birches
and hurl magpies' eggs
at the trains
at the trains  
(and was kicked out, mother,
of the Young Pioneers' organization*).

Now I am dead, mother,
I have fallen,
yet I would still scratch
with my nails across the wall:
"Overacheivers suck!!!"
I fell, mother, I am dead,
but I remember when
I scrubbed my head with soap and
then I cracked it open
on the yellow cobblestones… 
oh, the yellow cobblestones…**
Now I am dead, mother, 
I have fallen
yet I would still scratch
with my nails across the wall:
"Overacheivers suck!!!"

__________________________________________________________
* A Bulgarian youth organization during the communist era.
** A square in Sofia where student protests in 1996-97 demanded 
reforms and the resignation of the government.


Bdin - Banana Republic

How can you tell 
a banana republic?
The bananas hang high,
but the monkeys - down below!
The monkeys sit and wait.
A single banana breaks off and falls!
Yet another does not!
And all this
at subzero temperatures.


Bdin XIII

	for Strahil S.


Farewell, my friend!
The battle awaits you -
for the home,
which you will live in
as a renter,
for the woman,
who is constantly unfaithful,
for the future,
which has forgotten us.
I am staying.
The river
	flows into the sea,
the sea
	flows into the ocean
the puddles
	darken and dry up.
Heads grow heavy with carelessness,
mouths become pits,
words take on a bitter taste.
Our life runs on
like a hollow orgy.
Your ship awaits you!
Farewell, 
to the other shore.


Bdin XIV

		to John Lennon 

		"Which way are we going, boys?"
		"To the top, Johnny!"
		"And just where is that, boys?"
		"From the highest point - a little bit further up."
			                               
                                                             (Bdinian folk song)

Every day,
when I get off the streetcar
in the quarter of the hopeless,
not coincidentally named "Hope",
I meet John Lennon:
Hello, Johnny!
Hello, sir!
How are you, Johnny?
Very well, thank you, sir!
Always with that pale English face,
always with those glasses and that hair -
John Lennon lives in "Hope"
and sells bicycles.
Every day:
Hello, Johnny!
Hello, sir!
How are you, Johnny?
Very well, thank you, sir!
Yes, John,
here there is no danger
of some lunatic flying over
and shooting.


Bdin - Folk Song II

Refrain:	 I am leaving now
	Already darkness falls
	There ain't nobody left here
	To wait for me at all

Chorus: One step forward, 
   	  two steps back
	  That's the law
	  And then - up the ass…

Soloist: Farewell, farewell
	  You city sluts
	  with your narrow minds
	  and wide open cunts
	  Farewell, farewell,
	  you marginal ones,
	  idiotic drunks
	  from the outlying slums

Refrain: I am leaving now
	  Already darkness falls
	  There ain't nobody left here 
	  To wait for me at all

Chorus: One step forward, 
   	  two steps back
	  That's the law
	  And then - up the ass…

Soloist: Farewell, farewell
	   you curs so famished 
	   pseudo-intellectuals
	   with brains of granite 
	   Farewell, farewell
	   to all you fags
	   left without your mothers,
	   dreaming of your dads

Refrain: I am leaving now
	   Already darkness falls
	   There ain't nobody left here 
	   To wait for me at all

Chorus: One step forward, 
   	  two steps back
	  That's the law
	  And then - up the ass…


Soloist: Farewell, farewell
	  You "communists"
	  With filthy minds 
	  And backsides spotless
	  Farewell, farewell
	  O Tsar, as well to you,
	  May you live out your days
	  Among courtiers so true

Refrain: I am leaving now
	   Toward the river I am called
	   There ain't nobody left here
	  Already darkness falls


Bdin XV 

	for Shinji Iwasaki


You, most likely,
are now walking around,
hands thrust
in your pockets,
in that city,
bigger than
our entire nation
and somewhere amidst 
the rumble of subways
and elevators,
amidst the glitter of shop windows
and advertisements
our music
dies out…
And most likely you
are solitary,
as before,
most likely you, too,
are a stranger
in your own
homeland…
Yet funny how a walkman
can be a
breach
in space
and the wider 
the distance
the greater 
its insignificance.
You and I
we lived anonymously,
listening to our own
voices,
looking at our own
faces…

Now I
stand in this large
white room,
mute and solitary,
filled with silence,
and write to you,
despite the fact that you
have already known all of this
for a long time:
In vain  
it flashed above us,
my friend,
the enormous 
axe of time.


Bdin XVI

	for Professor Simeon Yanev

Today,
March 18th,
was a sunny
spring
day. 
Today
nobody
killed 
anybody,
nobody 
offended
anybody.
I entered
the church
to pray
and heard
the voices
of all the
dead.  
Rain 
fell 
from the eyes
of God.


Bdin XVII

	28.03.

Dear Dad,
you are probably 
watching from above
and seeing
how I have become
the laughingstock
of fools,
how they parade me
through the streets
in a cage
hung with the sign 
"Free,"
You are probably seeing
how diligently
I am learning
to sell gold coins
for copper pennies…
Now
I am riding in a streetcar
as cold as
a tomb
and feeling as if I just
got out
of some
hospital…
Don't grieve,
that's the only thing
I wanted to tell you.


Bdin - Folk Song III

	(sung before departing)

My love, I paid
with my liver
and spleen
for the feeling of freedom.
Idiot! -
would say 
the clever ones.
Idiot! -
would say
the wise ones.

My love, I paid
with my liver
and spleen
for the feeling of love.
Idiot! -
would say 
the clever ones.
Idiot! -
would say
the wise ones.

But the feeling
is worth it…
But the feeling
is worth it. 


Bdin XVII

Muddy landscape
snow
cherry blossoms
snow
cherry blossoms
snow
The impulse towards death
the drive towards self-destruction
Most likely we, too,
have to kill
that
which we were,
in order to give birth to
that
which we are not…
Most likely
the reason for 
"Revolution"
is mutual
misunderstanding…

I am leaving now.
I leave behind 
the graying faces
of buildings
and people
with graying facades.
Somewhere there,
among the rough
Asian hands,
the poor tender
heart
of Betsa* -
former student
of history -
is silenced.

And there is the river.
From it drift 
the voices
of misunderstood
poets:
Of the poet 
shot through the heart**,
of the poet
who drank lethal poison***,
of the poet, 
who, despite being one-eyed,
was strangled all the same****…
"Onanists!!!" -
will say the lady
on the left.
"No! Communists!" -
will say the gentleman
on the right.
I am leaving
now.

Farewell!!!
		Gurgle!!!
				Gurgle!!!
						Gurgle

_________________________________________
* A female name, used here as a pejorative address towards the Bulgarian state, following 
Konstantin Pavlov's poem "The True Story of Betsa the Revolutionary." 
** Hristo Botev, a poet and revolutionary, was killed in battle during the national 
liberation uprising in 1876. 
*** P. K. Yavorov, a symbolist poet, committed suicide by drinking poison in 1914. 
**** Geo Milev, an expressionist poet, lost his eye in World War I; in 1925 he was 
arrested and strangled.
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